ABORTION AND FUTURES-JUST-LIKE-OURS

There are few anti-abortion arguments with strong appeal. Many arguments are sketchy, ambiguous, and do not stand easily to rigorous scrutiny. So it is impressive when a serious argument breaks new ground in the abortion debate. Don Marquis in an article entitled, "Why Abortion Is Immoral," constructs an "argument that purports to show, as well as any argument in ethics can show, that abortion is, except possibly in rare cases, seriously immoral, that it is in the same category as killing an innocent human being." (p.304) To accomplish this goal, Marquis produces a "future-like-ours" argument, which he claims is independent of the traditional "sanctity of life" or "personhood" arguments. At the root of his argument is the claim that a future is a natural property which attaches to fetuses in the same manner that it does to adult human beings. "The future of a standard fetus includes a set of experiences, projects, activities, and such which are identical with the futures of adult human beings and are identical with the futures of young children. Since the reason that is sufficient to explain why it is wrong to kill human beings after the time of birth is a reason that also applies to fetuses, it follows that abortion is prima facie seriously morally wrong." (p.309) Marquis' argument is strong for a number of reasons: 1, it appeals to our basic intuitions about the value each of us places on our future; 2, it seems to avoid the traditional "personhood/sanctity of life" debates that cloud the forum; and 3, it strikes at the "essence" of the matter (why killing is wrong) --killing robs a being of its future. So, to find fault with his argument will require some doing.

What I intend to show in my essay is that Marquis is right that on a "future-like-ours" account, abortion is prima facie wrong, but is incorrect that it is also a sufficient condition to show that abortion is "seriously morally wrong" (I take him to mean, "morally impermissible") in most cases. I would like to take a more moderate stand: that his argument indicates prima facie abortion is wrong, but that factors which he tends to exclude must reenter the consideration to make a complete and final decision which decision may often be affirmative. Briefly, the "future-like-ours" argument is necessary for deriving a conclusion about the morality of any particular abortion, but is not sufficient to do so. My essay will conclude with some remarks about adoption. Using a modified Marquis' position, I shall try to show that in special cases third-parties may have a claim to a fetus, such that their claim is stronger than the host's claim to abortion.

The main arguments which I shall present involve: 1, an attack on the concept that futures are natural properties which somehow attach to persons in the same way persons' arms are attached; 2, an attack that futures, even if they are natural properties, are very ambiguous and indeterminate --to say a fetus has a "future-just-like-ours" becomes an vague statement the more "ours" is used to represent futures of all adult persons; 3, an argument showing that questions about personhood and associated utilitarian considerations must be reintroduced to provide clarity in determining the goodness or badness of futures; 4, an argument that Marquis' position on contraception involves a reductio ad absurdum concerning the distinction between possible and potential persons; and 5, an argument that a modified "future-like-ours" theory can establish conditions for adoption which would allow third-parties to make claims to a fetus which may be wished to be aborted by the host.

Section 1. Marquis' argument.

Marquis' argument is straight-forward. Abortion is seriously morally wrong. Why? Because abortion involves killing. But, what is wrong with killing. Killing robs a being of a natural property which is of great, if not the greatest, value. What is this natural property of which a being is robbed? It is the property of having a future, a "future-just-like-ours." To be killed "deprives one of all the experiences, activities, projects, and enjoyments that would otherwise have constituted one's future. Therefore, killing someone is wrong, primarily because the killing inflicts (one of) the greatest possible losses on the victim. To describe this as the loss of life can be misleading, however. The change in my biological state does not by itself make killing me wrong. The effect of the loss of my biological life is the loss to me of all those activities, projects, experiences, and enjoyments which would otherwise have constituted my future personal life. These activities, projects, experiences, and enjoyments are either valuable for their own sakes or are means to something else that is valuable for its own sake." "Therefore, when I die, I am deprived of all of the value of my future." (p.308) Since fetuses have the same kind of future that we do, and since it is wrong to deprive us of our futures, it follows that it is wrong to kill fetuses and thereby rob them of what is of the greatest value to them.

How do we know that a future is a natural property such that being deprived of it constitutes a terrible wrong? "A natural property'" Marquis answers, "will ultimately explain the wrongness of killing, only if (1) the explanation fits with our intuitions about the matter and (2) there is no other natural property that provides the basis for a better explanation of the wrongness of killing." (p.308) First of all, we regard killing as one of the worst possible crimes because it robs the victim of more than any other crime; a person loses everything of current and future value when his life is taken. Secondly, take a person who is dying of AIDS. The suffering from the effects of the disease is bad enough to prompt our deep sympathies, but it is the loss of the person's future (the natural property) that indicates that an untimely death is the real tragedy.

Abortion is the intentional act of killing a fetus robbing it of a future which has a value-like-ours. Consequently, abortion is seriously wrong. Since there is no talk using loaded and ambiguous terms such as "personhood" or "sanctity of life", but only of a natural property, the argument does not fall prey to attacks from those perspectives. Again, the key to the argument is the loss of the natural property, a future-just-like-ours.

Section 2. Futures are not regular natural properties.

Lots of things have futures: adult human beings, human children, human fetuses, human sperm, human ova, dogs, cats, viruses, banks, mutual funds, colleges, an atom, the universe.... Lots of things have natural properties: adult human beings and human children have hair, sperm and ova have cell walls, dogs and cats have whiskers, viruses have DNA, banks and mutual funds have assets, colleges have students, atoms are spatial, and the universe exists (the last claim may be taken with tongue in cheek). Take a typical example of a human being having a natural property, I have hair on my head. Were I to have feathers, it could be debated whether or not I were a human being or feathers were a natural property of a human being. It can clearly be imagined what I would be if I lacked hair on my head; I would be bald. There is no ambiguity about what exactly is missing as a natural property.

But, what would I be if I lacked a future? In many cases, the response would be that, "He is biologically dead," but not all cases. I can be imagined as being without a future, but not being dead. But, what is involved here? Having hair is very specific in the way we think of it as a natural property. But, having a future is radically different from hair. What do we conceive when we talk about a future?

When we talk about our futures, we refer to something which is very nebulous and indeterminate. In fact, we do not know that we have futures the way we know we have arms or hair; at best, we can hope that we shall have futures. And, too often the case, our futures turn out to be much different, sometimes much shorter and worse than we expected. The crux of my point is that futures qua futures are very indeterminate; it is hard to say what they are (will be). Futures qua futures are vague, indeterminate projections which subsist as a wide range of possibilities, quite unlike natural properties which exist such as arms, legs, hair and so on.

The point of the above argument is that when Marquis claims that a fetus has a future (just-like-ours): 1. that future turns out to be very vague and indeterminate, not only with respect to what the term 'future' means, but with respect to what it refers; 2, that future is radically distinct in kind (if it is a natural property at all) from most natural properties; and 3, that future may NOT be just-like-ours, but very different --even one's own future may be different from one's normal expectations.

Section 3. Futures are value specific to the individual.

The key to Marquis' argument is that abortion deprives the fetus of a future. But not just any future, it is deprived of a future-just-like-ours. Here is where I would like to turn on the trickle of criticism that is destined to overflow the house. We have seen above that futures are very ambiguous and indeterminate, that a future qua future refers to a world of possibilities. I think Marquis realizes this fact and that is why he is insistent upon saying that 'future' refers to "future-just-like-ours." But, therein lies the rub. Take the set which constitutes all the fetuses of the world. To say that they have a future-just-like-ours is to make an speculative, evaluative inductive judgement. From my perspective (and I admit, it is limited), the futures of most fetuses of the world are not anything like the futures of many (perhaps, most) fetuses of the United States. To be more specific, I would even say that in great number, the futures of the fetuses of the third world are horribly tragic. A fallacy raises its ugly head here; Marquis generalizes from the seeming fact that fetuses in the United States have a certain type of future that all fetuses have that type of future.

A further mistake is to presume, evaluatively, that futures are basically good or worth having in general. When mentioning futures-just-like-ours, Marquis speaks of projects, enjoyments, experiences that are either valuable for their own sake or valuable instrumental means. There is, however, another side of the coin which should be encountered; futures also involve pain suffering, misery, and experiences that are certainly intrinsically and instrumentally bad. So, Marquis is loading the deck when he says that killing is wrong when it deprives a fetus of a future-just-like-ours, because he has already given that future a positive value.

Two things may be said here. The first is that it is misleading to apply the predicate ("future") to a complicated set --the set of all existing fetuses. The old criticism of the ontological argument ("'being' is not a predicate") may have a sister counterpart which applies here; 'future' is not a predicate which, when added to a thing, brings into being the thing's future. "Future" can only vaguely describe; it cannot refer. Secondly, consider Somalian fetuses. I would suspect that the future of fetuses there is not like the positive generic description Marquis ascribes to all fetuses. If we are going to use the term 'future' to describe the natural property of a fetus, then we should talk about THAT fetus and its environment. Futures are evaluatively specific to the beings involved in the examination. Thus, if I am worried whether or not a Somalian fetus will have a future just-like-ours, the "ours" is U.S./Alabama/Birmingham contrasted to Somalia/Baidoa, to make just an initial survey of factual conditions.

I am not claiming that we cannot make comparisons (e.g.,the future of an Alabama fetus to a Somalian fetus) and be enlightened by that comparison. My claim is that it is epistemologically prior that the individual evaluations be done before we can make comparisons; futures are unique to individuals, though they may be generic to a set. For example, the future of a fetus of Mary Doe who lives on Maple Street on the "wrong side of Birmingham-town" may involve quite a pessimistic outlook, whereas that same fetus, when considered as one in the set of Birmingham fetuses, may involve an optimistic outlook. The optimistic outlook may be a generic description of the set of Birmingham fetuses, but it overlooks the unique outlook of the Doe fetus. By contrast, the future of a Somalian fetus may be horribly tragic compared to practically all fetuses of Birmingham.

The main point to be considered is that futures, when evaluated, should be evaluated with respect to the individual, especially when abortion is a consideration. As a member of the set of U.S. fetuses, fetus X may have an optimistic future, but when looked at individually, X may have an outlook so tragic that we would not hesitate to say that it does not have a future anything like "ours." Thus, fetuses and futures must be evaluated on a case by case basis; the prognosis depends on the scope of the analysis.

Another way of putting the matter is that hindsight is always 20/20, whereas evaluating the future from the present is anything but clear. To say that a fetus (any fetus) has a future-just-like-ours is a subjective judgement. The judgement may become more objective when we know precisely in what way the fetus' future is similar to our future. But, in order for this objectivity to obtain, the facts about the fetus must be known AND the details of our futures must be known. The problem is the more inclusive the description of our futures becomes to encompass ANY possible outcome we as a group may have, the less we can say about the relation a fetus has to it. If by "ours" we refer to the set of the entire adult population of the world, then "future-like-ours" becomes meaningless; how could it be possible to give any objective assessment of the future of the entire adult population of the world? Were we omniscient and could look ahead into the future and see what actually happens, then an objective account could be given. But, we are not gifted with such talents. The best we can do is to make evaluations for very small sets of persons, and even then the subjectivity of our judgements must always be held in cautionary view. What Marquis needs to say is that a future-like-ours refers to a specific and identifiable group of persons, which group has, as can be best determined, a good future. Even so, if the question is not begged theoretically (Is there one future that is ours, or many futures?), it is at least empirically when the group in question is large.

Hare makes a similar mistake in maintaining that fetuses should not be aborted in virtue of a retroactive Golden Rule principle. We are glad, Hare notes, that we were not aborted. Thus, we should treat fetuses as someone DID us. The presuposition is that any fetus will have a past-just-like-ours which, as we have seen clearly, begs the question empirically. It is extremely difficult to adequately predict that a particular fetus will have a life (past) as we have had. If one were a Somalian fetus in a refugee camp, I am not so cerain that one would be glad that he was not aborted.

Section 4. The evaluation of futures.

We do attempt evaluations of futures. It is easier to do for an existing individual than a large group. For example, I have a reasonably good though not entirely clear idea of what my future holds for the next year. However, I would not try to predict the future of the human race for the next twenty years.

With the above point in mind, what can be said about determining or predicting the future of a fetus? We should do as we do with predicting our own future; there are certain questions which need to be answered. 1, What is the nature of the subject's environment? 2, What is the status of the subject's mental and physical health? 3, What advantages or obstacles to a good life will aid or confront the subject? The list could go on, but let us suffice with these.

Let us take a hypothetical case. Consider a pregnant Rwandan refugee who is located in one of the camps in Zaire. She has no home and lives a life of terror in exile. Food, clothing, medicines, are in critical short-supply. Children are dying in numbers from starvation and disease. Those who do not die suffer the physical disabilities associated with malnutrition and the psychological traumas of camp life. (I do not think that most of us in our country have the slightest idea of how terrible such a state of being is.) Let us suppose, for the sake of argument two other conditions: abortion without injury to the host is medically possible, and the fetus can make a rational choice with respect to its outcome.

To tell the fetus that he must be born because killing him would deprive him of a future-just-like-ours (or that he would be glad like we are not to be aborted) would be ludicrous to the point of cruelty. A quick and painless death would be the obvious rational choice. Even Marquis would support this conclusion. Recall his position on an AIDS patient. Euthanasia is morally permissible. But his position must be clarified to reveal the true underlying principle; it is not the loss of a future per se that is so bad, it is the CERTAINTY of a BAD FUTURE that morally justifies killing.

The Rwandan example lets us know that it is an evaluation of the subject's present condition and associated negative consequences that justifies abortion. This evaluation is not only utilitarian, it deals with the rights and desires of the host. The fetus is intrinsically linked to the host's immediate future. Thus, an evaluation of the fetus' future must necessarily take into account the future of the host and her associated rights. Those rights could involve not being forced to give birth to a child which will certainly have a bad/tragic future. The cruel reality of the world daily portrays to us the momentous psychological and physical pain of women who, because of their destitute status and/or despotic surroundings, are forced to have and care for children whose futures involve only pain and suffering until death. I should not will that end or future on anyone and I would hope that no one would will such on me (especially were I a woman or fetus).

We may now draw the conclusion that Marquis' "future-like-ours" factor can be used as a starting point, an important starting point, for an evaluation of the permissibility of abortion in ANY PARTICULAR CASE. If a fetus can be determined to have a "future-like-ours" --the well defined future of a specific group which has the distinct probability of a good future-- then there is reason to be very careful about the decision procedure, in fact, enough reason to constitute PRIMA FACIE grounds that abortion in THIS case is wrong. But more is needed to complete adequately the evaluation; answers to the questions proposed above must be given. These questions involve considerations of moral principles which are utilitarian, rights-based, and deontological. Only after the correct application of facts to relevant principles to obtain a sufficient list of reasons to have or not to have an abortion is achieved can the decision to act be made.

To summarize our findings thus far, it is questionable whether or not a future is a natural property. Even if it were a natural property, it is not an unambiguous, discrete property, especially when 'future' refers to the future(s) of a large group. Yet, suppose future(s) were not ambiguous for a large group; nevertheless, more is needed by way of evaluation of the specific conditions of a fetus (its and environments of related persons') to make a decision for or against abortion. Further, utilitarian, rights, and deontological principles are necessary to make a final decision to act for or against abortion. Thus, having a future just-like-ours is not a sufficient condition to determine that abortion is wrong.

Section 5. A metaphysical flaw in Marquis' distinction between possible and potential persons.

Toward the end of his article, Marquis responds to a possible objection to his thesis. The objection concerns contraception. If what makes abortion wrong is the robbing a thing of a (valuable) future, then contraception seems to fall into the same category. Sperm and eggs which are denied conjunction through contraception are denied futures (just like those of any fertilized egg). Contraception is thus morally equivalent to abortion.

Marquis responds that there is a fundamental (metaphysical) difference between fertilized eggs and unconjoined sperm and ova. The primary difference is that when a fertilized egg is aborted there is an "actual subject of harm" (p. 315), whereas when contraception is used to prevent conjunction of egg and sperm, there is no actual subject of harm. The actual fertilized egg has a future whereas mere possible conjunctions have no futures.

Let us do a simple thought experiment. Imagine that there is a place where all possible souls of persons gather and wait for a chance to be actual in the world. (Rawls speaks of such an example.) These are unique souls. But, unlike Rawls, their uniqueness derives from the material (genetic) conditions of actual human beings living. The only chance that any soul will ever find its way into the world is for the couple genetically specific to it to have sex and a conception. If having a future is of great importance, especially to those souls who are not even in the immediate running (are not related to a fertilized egg), then we can imagine these souls sending messages to the appropriate couple on earth imploring them to have sex. They would be appalled at the use of contraception, for contraception would end forever any chance of their having a future. There are, we may see, unique subjects who will never enjoy a future on this earth not merely because actual persons use contraceptive devices, but also because actual persons simply refrain from having sex.

But, what we have here is a situation in which unique subjects are denied a future. These subjects must be harmed in the same way Marquis says fertilized eggs are harmed --they are denied a future. What other harm could we be speaking about? That being the case, it looks as though to abstain from sexual relations or to use contraceptive devices are morally equivalent to abortion, which is absurd. Thus, something is wrong, for it seems that possible subjects ("souls") are just as real with respect to possible futures as potential subjects (fetuses).

The reply can be made that the above argument makes a mistake by calling a collection of ingredients the same as a being made of those ingredients. A pile of chemicals which would constitute John Smith is "the same as" John Smith only from the perspective of the material constituents that make up the person, but the pile is not John Smith himself, the organic, living being. At the most, the pile could be said to be possibly John Smith. A sperm and ovum are the material genetic constituents which CAN make up a being, but they are not potentially that being. Sperm and ovum are material entities (a collection of things) that are associated with a possible person, whereas a fertilized egg is an actual organism which has the power unto itself to bring about an actual person --the fertilized egg is ACTUALLY a potential person. The potential person resides actually as it were in the fertilized egg; the possible person does not reside in the collection of the unconjoined egg and sperm. A pile or collection of chemicals is at most possibly John Smith, but a fertilized egg is potentially John Smith; John Smith will come about in the world from a fertilized egg, but not from a pile of chemicals or unconjoined sperm and egg.

To turn the criticism of Marquis' position upside down, if it were true that possible persons did ACTUALLY reside in the collection of sperm and egg, THAT would make contraception, abstinence from sex and abortion morally equivalent, which is absurd. It is this ACTUAL potential person in a fertilized which is the subject of harm in an abortion; possible persons are descriptions of things which do not refer to any actual subject or existing entity (such as a fertilized egg).

But wait a minute, isn't the question of existence begged here? What precisely IS the subject of harm? If it is a potential person, then it is very hard to understand how a potential person is harmed any more than a possible person; both of them do not exist. Moreover, how does a potential person exist in an actual fertilized egg such that a future attaches to it? Any way it is looked at, futures and potential persons are POSSIBLE things, not actual or existing things. In the case of abortion, a fertilized egg IS the subject of harm, but one cannot go on to conclude that an actual or even potential person is harmed. Even to claim that a potential person is harmed is difficult; what is the referred-to entity of a potential person as distinct from a possible person? If it is the fertilized egg, then it is extremely difficult to determine how abortion harms a fertilized egg the way killing harms a person but does not do so to a possible person. If the reference is to a future of a fertilized egg, then a future is not something that exists as a thing that can itself be harmed. Marquis must say more about what IS the subject that is harmed by abortion than just saying it is a fertilized egg which is harmed by being robbed of a future. The question of the real subject of harm is begged.

Section 6. Futures, rights, religion and adoption.

The future-just-like-ours condition is a necessary condition for an evaluation of the rightness or wrongness of abortion, but it is not a sufficient condition. But let us give Marquis a free hand and say that, if we can determine with reasonable certainty that a fetus has a future which is good, then abortion is prima facie wrong.

I would like to investigate a particular case in which the host wants an abortion. Questions about her future and the future of the fetus with her end up with answers that which reveal with reasonable certainty very poor outcomes. However, let us suppose that a third-party, a rich childless couple who wish a child, makes a moral claim against the host that she go full term so that they may adopt the baby. They take responsibility for the goodness of the future of the fetus. Do they have a viable claim?

We know the following facts: 1, The fetus will in all probability have a very poor life with its host ;2, the host does not want the fetus and will in all probability have a poor life with the infant ;3, a couple will take responsibility for the good future of the fetus ; and 4, abortion is prima facie wrong if the fetus has a future just-like-ours (here, a reasonably predictable good life). Can these make up a sufficient set of conditions to allow the third-party to make a claim for the life of the fetus such that abortion is not a moral option for the host?

There are objections to such an affirmative answer.

In an article entitled "On the Legal and Moral Status of Abortion," Mary Anne Warren provides an argument for abortion. She argues that the fetus does not meet the conditions for personhood such that it would have a claim to a right to life. She admits that her argument allows for infanticide, but she introduces other principles to argue against infanticide. "In the first place, it would be wrong, at least in this country and in this period of history, and other things being equal, to kill a new-born infant, because even if its parents do not want it and would not suffer from its destruction, there are other people who would like to have it, and would, in all probability, be deprived of a great deal of pleasure by its destruction. Thus, infanticide is wrong for reasons analogous to those which make it wrong to wantonly destroy natural resources, or great works of art." Second. "So long as there are people who want an infant preserved, and who are willing and able to provide the means of caring for it, under reasonably humane conditions, it is ceteris paribus, wrong to destroy it." Now, Warren introduces a distinction between abortion and infanticide.

But, it might be replied, if this argument shows that infanticide is wrong, at least at this time and in this country, doesn't it also show that abortion is wrong? After all, many people value fetuses, are disturbed by their destruction, and would prefer that they be preserved, even at some cost to themselves. Furthermore, as a potential source of pleasure to some foster family, a fetus is just as valuable as an infant. There is, however, a crucial difference between the two cases: so long as the fetus is unborn, its preservation, contrary to the wishes of the pregnant woman, violates her rights to freedom, happiness, and self-determination. Her rights override the rights of those who would like the fetus preserved, just as if someone's life or limb is threatened by a wild animal, his right to protect himself by destroying the animal overrides the rights of those who would prefer that the animal not be harmed.

The minute the infant is born, however, its preservation no longer violates any of its mother's rights, even if she wants it destroyed, because she is free to put it up for adoption. Consequently, while the moment of birth does not mark any sharp discontinuity in the degree to which an infant possesses the right to life, it does mark the end of its mother's right to determine its fate. Indeed, if abortion could be performed without killing the fetus, she would never possess the right to have the fetus destroyed, for the same reasons that she has no right to have an infant destroyed."

Warren states that if the fetus would not die from abortion, the mother would have no right to destroy it. What are her reasons for this claim? Her answer is, the same reasons it would be wrong to destroy an infant. The reason it is wrong to destroy an infant is that it has value, if not intrinsic at least instrumental. But, if it can be shown that a fetus has value before birth ( such that it has the moral status of an infant), then her claim that the host's right to her body supersedes the fetus' right to life (right to a valuable future) does not follow.

The argument is that given her criteria, it is possible for a host to give up a fetus for adoption long before it is born. The fact that third-parties have an interest in a fetus and its future gives the fetus an intrinsic value; it is valued for what it is and what it will be. Some pregnant women recognize this fact and, indeed, place a monetary value on the fetus; third-parties are responsible for not only post-natal care, but pre-natal care and time compensation for the host. Thus, birth neither marks the end of a mother's right to determine the fate of an infant nor does conception mark the beginning of that right.

If the value of a fetus' life is guaranteed by a third party, and if we can be reasonably assured that this life will be a good one, then it follows that the mother's rights to freedom are not sufficient to override the right of the fetus to a valuable future or the right (perhaps, even duty) of the third-party to rescue the fetus. We are not talking about a wild animal as Warren would have it, but a fetus with a good future. That the host will be required to harbor the fetus for nine months does not appear to be a sufficient condition for its destruction, since the fetus meets Warren's conditions for being valued. The good future combined with an intrinsic value puts the fetus in the same category as an infant.

The good future is important. The good future must be predictble. To say that fetuses must be born because tax-payers will support them, or that more than likely they will have a good life, will not do. Nothing could be worse than a ban on abortion for the reason that all fetuses have a right to life or that society has a duty to rescue. Requiring a fetus to be born in the world with only a rudimentary appraisal of its future is wrong. Futures must be as good as reasonably possible to conclude for birth. The cruel fact of the world is that certain social and religious practices do not see this point.

A question can be raised against the above position on deontological grounds. By requiring a host to go full term so that a third party may adopt the infant born, are we not using a person (the host) as a means? And, are we not doing so coercively? The answer is, yes. But, we must also ask whether or not the host is using the fetus merely as a means by its destruction? The answer to that question looks to be yes. Other answers given by the host such as the right to the exclusive use of her body, right to personal freedom, or right to an unobstructed future are superseded by the fetus's right to life in virtue of its right to a good future.

The main objection to the argument for adoption once again concerns our ability to assess futures. The argument works only if the future of the fetus is predictably a good one. The obvious problem is that futures are hard enough to determine in the first place. To contrast a probable future with an ideal future (one which is predicted to be good) sets up an impossible empirical task.

We are left with the conclusion that though appealing, a future-like-ours based argument simply will not do as a sufficient condition to determine the rightness or wrongness of abortion. All indications are that we must fall back on traditional arguments and principles to make reliable decisions.

Section 7. Conclusion

It may be thought that this paper supports abortion on demand. It does not. However, it supports abortion and adoption for good reasons. We have seen that the argument against abortion using the concept of a future-just-like-ours may be a necessary condition for the beginning of an examination of any particular case of abortion or adoption, but it is in no way a sufficient condition for a decision to act. Good reasons deriving from a proper assessment of facts and the application of those facts to relevant moral principles are requisite for any sound decision. Social institutions, individuals, and religions which ignore this procedure can only cause more harm and suffering than they intend to prevent.

Take me to a table of contents (there is another section on abortion)